Ensuring Online Activism Leads To Offline Impact

  • AUTHOR: anam
  • POSTED ON: January 27, 2020

In 2006, Tarana Burke used Myspace to raise her voice against sexual harassment. Numerous women soon adopted the “tactic” on social media and broke their silence on this serious matter. Their vulnerability soon turned into a cycle of strength, empathy, and empowerment. 

Source: Excal

After the infamous exposure of Harvey Weinstein, a viral movement started on various social media platforms. On October 15th 2017, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If all the women who have ever been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” This suggestion made absolute sense. The idea began to spread like wildfire as people got the support and strength they needed to simply share their wounds. This tweet was like a Pandora’s Box because soon high profile actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence, Uma Thurman, and Ashley Judd started to come out with their truth. 

The scope of the problem expanded with time. This movement was initially limited and only surfaced around Hollywood. However, with time, it got broader as the sports community, cooperate structures, and even academic institutions began to initiate high profile firings and criticism. It became a global phenomenon. 

Source: New Indian Express

A similar case was observed when President Trump was elected. People were furious with angst and frustrated due to the humiliation and disgrace the man exhibited. Under such circumstances, a Hawaiian grandmother did the first thing that came to her mind. She wrote “I think, we should march” on a popular group on Facebook and that innocent but provocative thought became a reality. 

In a matter of three weeks, more than 300,000 people showed interest in this protest, sister marches in London and Frankfurt were organized, and plans were made to abolish the republican rule. The important thing to realize here is that an idea that was shared on social media out of fear caught attention from people around the globe. The protests began, and they were a huge success. The aim was to ensure that people who were marginalized felt secure. The purpose was to stand in solidarity with the minorities, fight for their rights, and become their empathetic allies.

However, these movements have raised a series of questions: Is social media activism real now? Can online activism lead to offline impact? How much power do these hashtags, likes, and shares possess? How would you define online activism? Would this movement undermine the effort of activists before the invention of this medium?

Source: Gender. Sex. Tech.

Well, let’s take them one at a time.

Yes. Online activism is as real as Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in Joker. It has enraged people with fury and disgust. The true and ugly faces of people have been exposed, and the fact of the matter is that people are ready for this change. They are willingly accepting and taking action. They’re no longer brushing these heinous crimes under the carpet and waiting for a good time to arrive. Patience is no longer the answer and awareness is the only way to progress. Prayers are needed but so is action, vulnerability, and courage.

The sudden outburst is the consequence of years of trauma and suppression which women, people of color, and groups from the lower socioeconomic classes have been facing. With the help of social media, people are able to tell their story and point towards their abusers instead of shying away from them. There are numerous examples of online activism that have engaged the diplomats and changed the general perception of the world. Moreover, privilege is being acknowledged. 

Source: Yes! Magazine

Source: Business Insider 

Therefore, the power of Hashtags, likes, and shares is undeniable. Twitter and Instagram have especially played a significant role as per this barometer. Worldwide trends have gauged the attention of even the most ignorant and clueless individuals. This form of internet activism is now known as Slacktivism: the usage of micro-blogging, online petitions, social networks, and proxy servers to raise your voice against social injustice. These creative and concrete measures are examples of internet activism that have generated massive uproar. 

Source: Twitter 

A frequently observed criticism is that this form of activism undermines the efforts of heroes and activists of the past. Additionally, it is called lazy and herd-like. However, this argument is completely irrational and biased. Times have changed significantly, and with that, the world has taken a dramatic 360-degree turn. In the past, the forefathers and revolutionary figures didn’t have access to these incredible platforms and machines, as a result of which their impact was evident but slow. And so, understanding the obstacles of the past, it would be a terrible waste to not benefit from the tools and opportunities available today. 

Updated January 27, 2020
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